Drag Sa­fari in Mas­sachusetts

Hot Rod Deluxe - - Scrapbook - Bernie Brouil­let

I just got the March 2018 is­sue and read the ar­ti­cle on the Drag Sa­fari (“Back­stage Past”). I was par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested in the photos of the visit to my lo­cal track in Or­ange, Mas­sachusetts. While I was only 8 years old in 1955, the Or­ange Air­port has played an im­por­tant role in my life as I have lived within 5 miles of it all my life.

Now, to Wally Parks’ visit out here, there was a photo of him be­ing in­ter­viewed by a ra­dio re­porter hold­ing a mic with a WTAG tag, mean­ing the ra­dio sta­tion in Worces­ter, Mas­sachusetts, op­er­ated by the Worces­ter Tele­gram and Gazette news­pa­per at that time. Worces­ter is about 45 miles south­east of the Or­ange Air­port. I think that photo ap­peared in a pre­vi­ous Drag Sa­fari ar­ti­cle in Deluxe a cou­ple years ago, which also in­cluded a photo of the sta­tion wagon and trailer at a lo­cal Mo­bil sta­tion on West Main Street in Or­ange. I can I iden­tify the sur­round­ings.

But the pic­ture in the March is­sue shot in “some lucky New Eng­lan­der’s yard” is quite likely the home of the driv­ing force be­hind the cre­ation of the Or­ange Drag Strip, Jack Hart­ney, on Brook­side Road in Or­ange, al­most at the Athol-or­ange town line. I re­call his house was nar­row like the one shown, and a quick Google Earth look shows a house to the east match­ing the one in the back­ground. And I be­lieve Jack Hart­ney is the per­son to Wally’s right in the photo, and the car in ques­tion is likely Jack’s as well.

If you’ve seen the book Cool Cars, Square Roll Bars about the early days of New Eng­land hot rod­ding, you’ll know about Jack Hart­ney and the strength of his ef­forts to get sanc­tioned rac­ing up here. Mr. Hart­ney passed on a few years ago, but there should be on­line ref­er­ences should you wish to check them out. He was one of the very first mem­bers of NHRA.

I started go­ing to the Or­ange drags in 1964, should have gone sooner. Raced a few times in 1967 and 1968 my­self, joined the NETA in late 1968 af­ter sub­scrib­ing to both Drag News and Na­tional Drag­ster at the end of 1967. Was given a copy of those pub­li­ca­tions by some­one I met at Or­ange in 1967, and I see him oc­ca­sion­ally at New Eng­land Drag­way. He still has and still races the same car he had at Or­ange, a ’66 Caprice once dubbed “Ole Yella.”

In re­cent years, there’s been an Or­ange Drag Strip Re­union event put on by some folks who weren’t even born when Or­ange was in reg­u­lar use, from 1954 to 1968, with a few races in 1970 un­til an air­plane crash on a race day, un­re­lated to drag ac­tiv­ity, put an end to use of the lo­cal air­port for drag races. They do a great job of the nos­tal­gia an­gle on a 330-foot-long course at a nearby air­port. The first two re­unions were at the Or­ange Air­port it­self; Jack Hart­ney and many other oldtimers at­tended the first one. See dra­gre­union.com if in­ter­ested.

Thanks so much for a great ar­ti­cle and all your works over the years. I’ve read plenty of them and have hun­dreds of those mag­a­zines to this day, and plenty of mem­o­ries, too.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.